Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was rattling off a list of the considerable talents of his new linemate Zack Kassian when a suggested comparable froze him like a Zdeno Chara cross check. For everything Kassian may become for all the Canucks are counting on the 22-year-old to be this season a Todd Bertuzzi comparison went too far. "Bert is maybe the best player I've played with it's tough to get up to his level" Sedin cautioned. "But [Kassian] has the same body good hands and he can fly out there. He has all the tools but it's going to be a work in progress." The Canucks are hoping to see signs of it early starting Kassian on the top line with Henrik and twin brother Daniel Sedin in the preseason. New coach John Tortorella is also pledging more patience than the big winger was afforded last season when he scored five goals in the first seven games playing with the Sedins but was soon dropped to the fourth line his minutes and opportunities diminished. By the time the season ended Kassian also spent time back in the American Hockey League something he alluded to then as punishment for unprofessional behavior off the ice. Yet Kassian's potential impact on the big club was important enough that Tortorella sought out a phone conversation after being hired. "I want to give him every opportunity to be a huge part of this team and I told him that" Tortorella said when training camp opened. "It's something I think the team needs as far as his willingness as far as his playing into a bigger role. I'd like to see it happen. He's going to get the opportunity but he's going to sink or swim himself. That's why I contacted Zack. This is a big year for him and that's why I wanted him to step out of himself and be a big part of this club." While all the talk from Tortorella and the Canucks about needing to get younger -- and cheaper -- this season has placed the focus on recent first-round draft picks like Bo Horvat Hunter Shinkaruk and Brendan Gaunce the development of Kassian the 13th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft may be more important to their immediate fortunes. If he can be effective with the Sedins long term it frees up their regular linemate Alexandre Burrows to drop down with old friend Ryan Kesler spreading out the goals on a team that struggled to score last season. Kassian who finished last season with two goals over the final 32 games appears ready to accept that challenge arriving at camp lighter stronger faster and understanding he has to showcase his considerable talent more often.
Skilled and strong, Kassian still a work in progress
NHL.com | Sep 21